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How to Best Use Crowdsourcing How can crowdsourcing work for your business? A look at some online resources that stand out from the crowd.

By Gwen Moran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2006, writer Jeff Howe coined the term "crowdsourcing" to mean replacing an employee's efforts with the contributions of a crowd of people. Since then, crowdsourcing has helped companies improve products and develop creative concepts. BP even tried it in an attempt to find solutions in this spring's disastrous Gulf Coast oil spill.

"Crowdsourcing was typically for the generation of content or concept, but now we see it used in many ways," says Michael Michalowicz, founder of Obsidian Launch, a Boonton, N.J.-based small-business consultancy that uses crowdsourcing to launch ventures. Small businesses can turn to crowds to help develop ideas for products, for product testing and feedback and to find providers of various services, to name a few. But where do you find them? A cottage industry of crowdsourcing businesses has sprung up to provide crowd resources for a variety of applications. Here's a look at some of the best. This online marketplace for creative services allows users to post the parameters of their design or writing project and name the price they want to pay. Creatives then work on spec, submitting their ideas, and the user chooses the one he or she likes best. Any agreed-upon fees are paid upfront along with a $39 posting fee and a 15 percent commission.

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